Paula NoonanPaula NoonanJuly 24, 20175min690
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

The yoke of bad health is a freedom killer.  Not only does disease limit opportunity, it eliminates choices available only to the healthy.

These facts begin for me in 1934 when my mother, a bright and lively girl, was struck out of nowhere by the auto immune disease juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  At 13 she had a stuck left elbow and right wrist.

In 1950, the new pharmaceutical prednisone came on the market.  My mother needed it.  Our grandparents and aunts kicked in enough money to buy the pills.

In 1959 on her 13th birthday, my sister, a bright and lively girl, was struck by the auto immune disease juvenile diabetes.  Every item of every meal was weighed for grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  She used a big, thick needle for her daily shot of insulin.

In the early 60s, the impact of large doses of prednisone taken over many years dissolved my mother’s tissues.  She had three operations that included a temporary colostomy.  Her bones were fragile and broke easily.  Her tendons and ligaments tore and snapped.  Many operations.  Her hospital bills, even then, were way beyond our family’s income.  My father, a World War 2 POW, couldn’t change jobs because he needed health insurance to cover the catastrophe.

In the late 60s, my father lost his job due to the high costs of my mother’s health care to the small company he worked for.  He wanted to join a group of guys who were starting a new enterprise but decided he couldn’t.  No health insurance.  He went to work for less pay to make sure he had insurance for my mother and sister.

In 1975, my mother died at 54 after three months in a hospital for a flu that turned into a massive staph infection that overwhelmed her.  In 1980 my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a result of years as a textile chemist working with dyes and bleaches.  In 1986, my sister was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in addition to her diabetes, a double auto immune whammy.

My father’s Parkinson’s got progressively worse and he ended up in a wheel chair with a catheter and lots of pills.  He was thankfully on Medicare with Kaiser and eventually got help with his medications through the VA.  He finally told us to tell doctors to “knock it off” when they said he needed a feeding tube.  He passed in 2002.

My sister worked hard as a teacher in low income schools in San Jose, CA.  She had health insurance and needed it.   Her diabetes care progressed. On her Kaiser plan, she got a new finger pricker device to test her blood sugar levels and an automated injector for her insulin.

Meanwhile, her arthritis hit her left shoulder and elbow, fingers, toes and ankles. In 2010, she broke her right leg on a visit in Nebraska.  She spent two months away from home in physical and occupational therapy in Lincoln, then another two months in Denver. She couldn’t fly to California due to the risk of blood clots.  She went on Embrel and is now out of a wheel chair, working out with a trainer, and getting some strength and mobility back.

Everyone, unfortunately, is susceptible to chronic disease and consequent disaster. It’s harsh nature removing freedom from life. Health care goes part way to restoring that freedom.  Life is tyranny without it.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanJuly 3, 20175min760
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Tri-partisanship is on life support in Washington, D.C.  The nation’s health-care system now has three irreconcilable options: Obamacare, RyanCare and MitchCare.  It’s barely possible to see a path to WeAgreeOnThisOneCare.

In our own square state, bipartisanship perked up at the end of the 2017 session, even though the bill that most carries the bipartisan brand is messy.  Work on the issues within the bill show under what conditions legislators will come together.

Issue one was the hospital fee put in place to support hospitals that provide lots of uncompensated care. From spring 2010 to September 2016, hospitals received $1.4 billion to make up for Medicaid and other patients unable to pay their medical bills, according to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

That’s a lot of get-to-even money for mostly rural and urban hospitals.  But the funding comes with a catch.  The hospital fee, if considered a tax, pushes state tax revenues into Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) restrictions.

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, has long supported exempting the uncompensated care hospital fee from TABOR.  At one time, he was the one Republican Senate vote that could preserve the fee.

Many GOP lawmakers do see the fee as a tax. If it is a tax, hospitals take a double hit because the state has to reduce the fees and thus matching federal dollars to ensure that total tax revenues don’t trip TABOR limits.

Rural hospitals and the citizens they serve argued to their Senate and House legislators, including Republicans Jerry Sonnenberg, senator from Sterling, and Jon Becker, representative from Fort Morgan, that they absolutely needed all the fee money or they would have to close.  That position put the anti-taxers Sonnenberg and Becker, along with Crowder and some other rural Senators, in conflict with their pro-TABOR colleagues.

Then came the second big issue:  state transportation funding.  HB17-1242 would create a transportation funding initiative to bring sales tax dollars to save the state’s degraded infrastructure.  The bill passed the Democratic House with some GOP votes but couldn’t get out of the Republican Senate, killed in the Finance committee by Republican Senators Tim Neville, Jeffco; Jack Tate, Arapahoe, and Owen Hill, El Paso.

It looked like the provider fee would lose and transportation was done.  But Sonnenberg and Becker hooked up with two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Majority Leader K.C. Becker, as sponsors for the Sustainability of Rural Colorado bill.

In the last days of the 2017 session, the sponsors had to get creative.  They came up with a $2 billion tax go-around using state buildings for lease-to-purchase deals and a new Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise for the provider fee.

Democrats and some Republicans went with the plan, including Sens. Owen Hill and Jack Tate, who earlier voted against the sales tax initiative in Senate Finance.  Democrats added some education money, but the pinch on affected lawmakers hurt enough to get enough to “yes.”

A world of urgent hurt for a large majority of constituents can get lawmakers to bipartisanship.  That may end up the only ticket at the national level.  Lots of constituents and interests from all over the nation are stirring the health care stew and the heat is on high.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanMay 31, 20175min1010

Both “sides” in the arguments over oil and gas development say the other is “taking advantage” of the explosions in Firestone and Mead. This should not be a time for sides. This should be a time for serious analysis. It can also provide an opening that should, for the sake of everyone in the state, cut through sides to allow common sense to function. Both accidents caused violent fire and explosions leading to death and serious injuries in non-industrial environments. The Mead accident occurred 1,000 feet from other buildings, according to reports. The Firestone explosion blew up a house as a pipe leaked gas that followed French drains into the Martinez’s basement.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanApril 28, 20175min760

The state boosted its per pupil funding for public school students by 2.8 percent out of the General Fund to $6,585,800,182 for 2017-2018. That number works out to $6,546.20 per student, according to Senate Bill 17-296. Adding other sources, the Colorado Department of Education estimates that the average per pupil funding for next year will be $7,605, up from $7,420.